When children with autism have, to some level, learned a specific and established sets of skills, this is the best time to introduce them to shadowing. These skills include the ability to play, to socialize, develop and understand common terminology, participate in group academic skills and the ability to uphold acceptable behavior. But what exactly is shadowing?
Shadowing is the act of getting a student with a disability into a general schooling curriculum while they are accompanied by someone to attend to them. The Personal Care Assistant, who usually also acts as a therapist, is professionally qualified on the fundamentals of applied behavior analysis. These include the process of reinforcement, and the ability to prompt the child.
They are generally known as shadows and will be with the student in the academic setting so that they can provide support for the student in that setting. The shadow also has the task of helping the student with the abilities that they have already acquired while assisting the student in attaining new skill sets as well.
It is vital, for the Personal Care Assistant to have the suitable proficiency that is required for them to be fitting for the task of shadowing. The shadow, also generally referred to as a PCA, has to be someone that is totally devoted to assisting the student. The purpose of assisting the student is to get them to be as self-reliant as they can become in an ordinary school environment.
This is most important objective that the shadow can help the student with autism to achieve. Once the shadow has achieved this objective, they can ultimately fade out from the comprehensive surroundings so that they let the child perform normally in the classroom and the school.
The Importance of Independence
One of the major roles and benefits of a shadow for an autistic child is the ability to get the child to become independent. Understanding that autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that is brought about by variations in the brain is vital. The disorder is typified, in contrasting levels by complications in social interaction, oral communication as well as verbal communication and repetitive behavior. This is why it is essential that the child learns how to become independent.
How to Work on the Child’s Independence
Working on independence in the classroom involves the shadow commencing a sequence of actions. These actions are what will get the child to become independent. A case in point is getting the child to be able to grasp how habitual activity in the classroom works and how to follow standard class behavior or rules.
The child must thus learn where they can place their school bag, where they are supposed to sit, and what to do or not do. They must learn how the class itinerary operates. It is the task of the shadow to decide what degree of support the child requires in various class functions. They must support the child so that the child is able to operate the same way other children function. When the child is able to do this, like a shadow, the aide must withdraw and monitor the child while taking notes and evaluating the situation.
There will be circumstances where the student will require more assistance in specific activities. The shadow must ensure that they support the child to the degree that is appropriate when such occasions arise. There might be a need to apply hands-on prompting initially, but ultimately the role of the shadow remains to assist the child to become independent. Once the child is able to operate independently, the shadow must reduce the prompt to simple non-invasive prompts such as mere signals and then again gradually withdraw the prompts to an extent where no prompting is necessary.
Other Roles and Functions of the Shadow
Other essential roles and functions of the shadow will be to ultimately assist the student in advancing in their development. They must get the student to become self-reliant by applying various interventions when necessary. These could be in the area of social and behavioral interventions. The guide must concentrate on getting all communication endeavors from other students to the child with autism, to be directed to the autistic student.
The shadow must also direct the student to the teacher anytime they have any needs. They must help the student so that he or she does not repeat the commands or instructions that the teacher gives. The shadow must help the student to master the teacher’s methodology of tutoring. While the shadow is doing all this, they must always compile a report and then withdraw again when they can.
In doing all this, the shadow cannot take the role of the teacher. They also cannot be in control of the child’s development. While shadowing, they cannot work alone and take all the responsibilities. There must be a collective and united approach from the shadow, the teacher. and the parents. A lot is involved in getting an autistic student to attain independence. In all this, it is the child’s specific needs are truly of consequence.